TED recently launched a new website all about cities:

TED says their new website, thecity2.org, could help create cities more “vibrant, inclusive, and just”. It showcases projects all over the world that have won grants of $10,000 from City 2.0…

via GOOD.


Happy to report we received the below press release today announcing the official start to construction on the greenest for-profit office building in Seattle, Stone34. The project is a part of the city’s Living Building Pilot Program.

Check out this video to take a spin around the site and see what the planned headquarters for Brooks Sports Inc. will look like:

Stone 34 | Skanska from eric becker on Vimeo.


Skanska breaks ground on Stone34 today, a mixed-use office and retail building at the corner of Stone Way and North 34th Street. Skanska’s design for Stone34 blends sustainable systems with community elements to create one of the most efficient commercial office buildings in the country. Stone34 is Skanska USA Commercial Development’s first project in Seattle with additional projects planned in Seattle’s South Lake Union neighborhood and Bellevue, Wash.


“Stone34 was designed on a shared vision of fostering greater connection in the community, including linking the Fremont and Wallingford neighborhood to the trail as well as Brooks with the runner,” said Lisa Picard, executive vice president, Skanska USA Commercial Development, Seattle. “The vision grew quickly with the collective goal of making Stone34 a community-responsive building.”


Skanska’s team designed Stone34 to serve a diverse population of trail and civic users as an “urban trailhead” for the Burke-Gilman Trail. Features such as wide sidewalks, group seating, plaza spaces, and bike rails, will encourage activation and success of the ground floor spaces – an essential design consideration for anchor tenant Brooks Sports Inc.  Stone34 is a 129,000 square feet building with four stories of office above a retail level. The building includes over 8,500 square feet of outdoor pedestrian areas.


“Brooks is dedicated to inspiring everyone to run and be active,” said Jim Weber, CEO of Brooks Sports, Inc. “We have an incredible opportunity with Stone34, our new headquarters, to build a trailhead – a gathering place that is integrated with the community and fosters the continued growth of the lifestyle we believe in.”


The building is part of Seattle’s Deep Green Pilot Program, which requires water and energy use to be reduced by more than 75 percent of comparable buildings. Stone34 is pre-certified LEED Platinum and includes hydronic heating and cooling systems, stormwater capture and reuse, and a building design that increases day lighting and reduces summer heat loads. Occupants are encouraged to reduce their own impact by using real-time monitoring of occupant energy use.


“The Fremont Chamber is thrilled that such a cutting edge, green development is being built in this key location,” said Jessica Vets, executive director, Fremont Chamber of Commerce. “Stone34 will be a bridge connecting Fremont with Wallingford and shows how beneficial community connectivity is for all.”


Construction is expected to be complete in Spring 2014. Skanska USA Building is the general contractor for the project. LMN Architects is the architect and Swift & Company is the landscape architect.

Skanska USA Commercial Development, which launched in late 2008, is focused on the development of Class A sustainable office projects. In addition to Seattle, Skanska also has commercial development groups in Boston, New York, Washington D.C. and Houston; all five metropolitan areas have strong market drivers in addition to construction units in place.


For further information please contact:

Jessica Murray, 404-946-7468, Jessica.Murray@skanska.com

Joseph Vandenorth, 847-651-4420, Joseph.Vandenorth@nyhus.com

This and previous releases can also be found at www.skanska.com

For more information on the project please visit www.stonethirtyfour.com

About Skanska USA

Skanska USA is one of the largest, most financially sound construction and development networks in the country, serving a broad range of industries including healthcare, education, sports, data centers, government, aviation, transportation, power, energy, water/wastewater and commercial. Headquartered in New York with 39 offices across the country, Skanska USA employs approximately 9,400 employees committed to sustainable construction and development and an injury-free workplace. Skanska USA Building, which specializes in building construction, and Skanska USA Civil, which focuses on civil infrastructure, generated $4.9 billion in revenue in 2011, representing 28 percent of Skanska’s global construction revenues. Development units Skanska USA Commercial Development, which invests in and develops office and multi-family projects in select U.S. markets, and Skanska Infrastructure Development Americas, which develops public-private partnerships, are both leaders in their selected markets. Global revenue of parent company Skanska AB, headquartered in Stockholm and listed on the Stockholm Stock Exchange, totaled $18.9 billion in 2011.



Alex Merrick takes a flying leap off a closed and unused section the 520 Bridge into the cool water of the Washington Park Arboretum below on Monday August 8, 2005 in Seattle. The unused ramp is a popular spot where Seattelites have plunged into the water below for many years. Photo: JOSHUA TRUJILLO, SEATTLEPI.COM FILEYesterday, The Seattle Times reported that “the ramps to nowhere” are going away. The unofficial public swimming infrastructure is making way for a new Highway 520 floating bridge. That project has caught the attention of neighbors in Montlake, Madison Park, Laurelhurst, and Capitol Hill who have come together to ask for the replacement project to help reconnect their neighborhoods and “make it safe, comfortable, and convenient for everyone, from an 8-year-old child to his 80-year-old grandmother, to bike and walk” in their neighborhood.

The Cascade Bicycle Club reports overwhelming community support. Nearly 1,200 people wrote the Seattle City Council telling them to “get SR 520 right!” The groundswell has catalyzed a City Council resolution calling for the city to work with WSDOT to improve walking and biking connections in Montlake and to figure out how to build a shared use trail on the new Portage Bay Bridge.

Here is an image of the impact to the Portage Bay Bridge footprint if a few feet were added on each side for non-motorized options:

And that’s not all:

But wait, it gets better. Councilmember Conlin has introduced an amendment to help ensure the biking and walking improvements work for people of all ages and abilities. This means they’ll build protected bike lanes and neighborhood greenways instead of just slapping some paint on the road and calling it good.

For more information about this effort and how you can lend your voice to the call for new non-motorized connections between neighborhoods, check out the Cascade Bicycle Club or Central Seattle Greenways.

I have great summer memories of leaping off the Arboretum’s unfinished freeways. I always marveled at the seemingly limitless appetite of road builders. Let’s hope the city and state jump right into the work of planning other ways for us to get around, building a future of vibrant urbanism that’s less dependent on private automobile ownership and use.


The corner of 23rd and Union has been a focal point of neighborhood hopes for the Central Area for many years. In 2008, this project looked likely to play a major role in the crossroads’ revitalization, but was stalled by the recession.

Design for planned but stalled building on southwest corner

A temporary art installation filled the vacant development site for a time, as seen in this image:



The corner has since reverted back to the dirt it has been for most of the past decade, after the original building suffered irreparable damage in the 2001 Nisqually Earthquake.

Today, that intersection remains a big target for a community seeking a critical mass to revitalize one of the central areas key neighborhood connections. The quickening of the economy’s pulse seems to be pumping life into properties there, with several recently in play and efforts to rethink zoning for one that is on the brink of a major vacancy of its own as the Post Office announces plans to move on from the single-story shopping center it anchors on the Southeast corner.

Central District News has the story on 23rd/Union.



The City Council continues to review the South Lake Union Rezone proposal, including the proposed use of the Landscape Conservation and Local Infrastructure Program (L-CLIP). While not often discussed, the L-CLIP is a great example of “putting your money where your mouth is.” The program will provide $29.7 million for infrastructure in South Lake Union and Downtown (with bike/ped/transit projects, green streets and a community center as top priorities) and preserve more than 25,000 acres of regional farm, forest and open space.

Please let Council members know you support this important legislation.


If you were planning to join us for tomorrow’s brown bag lunch, we regret to inform you we have had to postpone this discussion for Friday, March 1.

Please note the new date, and be sure to join us for our next brown bag lunch on ideas for Seattle single family development: Thursday, January 23.

WHEN: (NEW DATE) Friday, March 1, 12 p.m. to 1:30 p.m.

WHERE: GGLO Space at the Steps, 1305 1st Avenue, Seattle (1/4 of the way down the Harbor Steps)

Great City board member Jessie Israel will lead a presentation and discussion on ways to put waste heat to work right here in Seattle.

Heat, flow, and nutrients of waste water traveling through conveyance lines can be captured and used to meet energy requirements for various types of buildings.

As National Geographic has noted, “Wastewater is an astoundingly powerful source of energy. One estimate is that Americans flush 350 billion kilowatt-hours of energy into the sewers each year—roughly enough to power 30 million U.S. homes.”

Some technologies have been demonstrated as effective but are not yet common practice. King County is working with several private sector partners to identify ways to harness the unlimited source of thermal energy that flows beneath city streets. Join us to learn more!

More information:(206) 715-0846 | natekvcd@gmail.com.


This was originally published on Sightline Institute’s website, http://daily.sightline.org/2012/12/20/tiny-homes/.
Written by Alyse Nelson, a Sightline Writing Fellow.

the entrance

A Jay Shafer Tiny Home. Flickr: nicolas.boullosa.

My husband and I think we’ve found a way to pay off our mortgage early, without taking on an extra job or working nights. We’ve decided to construct a rental unit—a “mother-in-law suite”—within our home. If it pans out as we hope, the rental income will let us pay off our loan 10 years early. And who knows: it could give us a chance to live closer to family as we, or they, get on in years.

Jason and I are not alone; lots of folks across Cascadia and beyond are experimenting with adding a second (or third) dwelling to an existing single-family home. And in perhaps the most interesting development, more and more people are choosing to buck the “bigger is better” trend in North American housing. They’re taking small spaces—back yards, side lots, or freestanding garages—and using them to build tiny houses.

Ranging from 800 square feet to less than 100 square feet—a far cry from the 1000 square feet per person that has become the North American norm—these “doll houses” take many shapes and sizes. And the people who live in them are as diverse as the homes themselves. Some hope to save money on housing; others hope to “live green” by choosing a smaller space; some are trading living space for a neighborhood they love; and others want to live closer to family or friends.

Here are some of their stories.

Jay Shafer, a founding father of the tiny home movement and a co-owner of the Tumbleweed Tiny House Company, told the BBC: “People are thinking more about what really is a luxury now. Is it a 30-year mortgage, or is it just living simply and having the time to do more of what you want? And I think a lot of people are starting to really change their idea of the American Dream.”

Dee Williams decided to rethink her American Dream after building a school in Guatemala, and having a close friend get cancer made her reevaluate her priorities. “He was getting sicker and sicker, and I didn’t have the time or the money to really throw myself into helping him. I was spending a lot of time and money on my house. So the house was the easiest thing to try to get rid of,” Williams told Yes! Magazine. So she sold her 1,500 square foot Portland home and built an 84-square foot tiny home for $10,000. Now she lives without a mortgage, giving her the time and money to invest in her friends and community.

Akua Schatz and Brendon Purdy’s dream was to live near relatives, but they couldn’t afford a home in Vancouver, BC’s Dunbar neighborhood. Instead of moving to the suburbs, they decided to build a 500-square-foot laneway home in Brendon’s parents’ backyard. In a city where the average home price is $725,086, Schatz and Purdy spent $280,000 to build their home.

Brendon and Akua's laneway home, view from the alley, photo used with permission from http://buildsmall.blogspot.com

There’s another plus to their backyard home: Schatz and Purdy have babysitters just feet away from their front door. “It’s really a North American concept to have success tied to moving away or distancing yourself, so maybe we’re reinventing what it means to be successful, and that means keeping family close,” Schatz suggests in this video from CTV news.

The laneway home sites in the backyard of Brendon's parent's home.

But unlike Schatz and Purdy, who plan to eventually switch places with Purdy’s parents and live in the larger home as their family grows, Jon and Ryah Dietzen moved from their 1,500 square foot home to a 400 square foot cottage with two toddlers. They made the move for its financial freedom, but the benefits didn’t stop there. “We realized after a few months how much time, freedom, and peace we were gaining by not collecting and spending our time taking care of more ‘stuff’,” Jon Dietzen told me. By choosing a smaller house, they found a better balance between work and home life.

The Dietzens remodeled a garage into a cottage. Here is the “before” shot. Photo credit Royce Tillotson, used with permission.

A view of the remodeled space. Photo credit Royce Tillotson, used with permission.

The Dietzens prove that tiny homes can work even for a family of four, and that they’re not just for couples, seniors, or singles.

A lot in a small space: kitchen island, living room, and a bedroom behind a curtain. Photo credit Royce Tillotson, used with permission.

Small homes combat neighborhood decline brought on by shrinking household sizes. Adding people can revitalize a neighborhood, allowing schools to stay open, giving neighborhood businesses more customers, making transit service cost-effective, and saving on infrastructure costs. Infilling neighborhoods with backyard cottages helps add more people to a neighborhood, without altering its character.

Cities and towns across Cascadia are beginning to permit backyard cottages. Seattle andVancouver both adopted rules for backyard cottages in 2009. Portland has allowed accessory dwellings since 1998; but when the city relaxed size restrictions and waived development charges in 2010, it unleashed a renaissance in small home building. Today, thousands of properties qualify for accessory units in Portland, Seattle, and Vancouver—leading to hundreds of tiny houses, typically built on a small scale by individual homeowners.

As homeowners build small dwellings, they provide lower-cost housing within the existing fabric of their neighborhood, with no government support necessary. Vancouver’s planning director, Brent Toderian, sees this as the essential value of the trend towards small homes: “[It’s] about ordinary people. Thousands of individual homeowners can do it, one by one by one. It’s publicly propelled, not corporate-propelled densification. It’s gradual. It’s discrete. It’s green.”

Now that many cities have figured out backyard cottage rules, they face a new challenge: dealing with homes even tinier than the typical accessory dwelling. Some cities’ regulations set minimum size requirements for dwellings. Others say a recreational vehicle can’t count as an ADU, which means “you can camp in your little house, but not live in it,” writes Dee Williams. Tiny houser Lina Menard suggests that “people should have the right to a tiny house as long as it accommodates their needs and desires.” But for people to exercise that right, cities will have to rethink the zoning rules that stand in the way of tiny homes.

Lina Menard with her possessions, sitting outside a tiny home she lived in for 10 months.Photo credit Lina Menard, used with permission from her blog, thisisthelittlelife.com.

After a year in a 120-square-foot tiny home, Menard has a good idea of how to live well in a small space. “I think one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned is that I’m much happier when I live with just the things I like best. My relationship to stuff has shifted dramatically over the past year and a half. I’m much less materialistic than I used to be. But I really appreciate the little touches, too. It’s not about deprivation, but about intension,” Menard told me.

Lina’s tiny home includes a sleeping loft that she shares with her cat, Raffi. Photo credit Lina Menard, used with permission from her blog, thisisthelittlelife.com.

She recognizes that tiny home living isn’t for everyone, but thinks there’s a way to broaden their appeal: the “cohousing” model, where tiny homes would be coupled with shared kitchens, laundry facilities, guest rooms, and even amenities like barbeques, workshops, and gardens. “Tiny cohousing would just push the envelope,” Menard writes in her blog. “People who lived in a tiny house community would have access to all these things, but they wouldn’t have to own all these things themselves,” Menard explains.

A view down from the sleeping loft into Lina’s main living space. Photo credit Lina Menard, used with permission from her blog, thisisthelittlelife.com.

There are a few small home cohousing communities popping up in Cascadia. Eli Spevak, owner of Orange Splot, LLC, has developed several innovative housing projects in Portland. “My goal is to keep modeling new ways of providing affordable, community-oriented houses,” Spevak told The Oregonian.

The Sabin Green cohousing community brings Spevak’s goals to fruition. Sabin Green includes four homes, built on a 75- by 100-foot lot. The lot had a single-family home and detached garage. The single-family home remains, but the detached garage was converted into a 600-square-foot cottage. A second home and a 600-square-foot accessory dwelling were built as well. The four homes face onto a central courtyard, but they also have access to shared gardens, a community room with space for visitors, and a bike storage shed. The sharing doesn’t stop with physical improvements: residents also use just one Internet service, share a newspaper subscription, and meet for weekly dinners.

Sabin Green before its transformation. Photo credit Eli Spevak, used with permission.i

The new view from the street. Photo credit Eli Spevak, used with permission.

The project is home to a diverse group, including a young couple, retirees, a single woman, and a small family. Residents Laura Ford and Josh Devine paid just under $150,000 for their 530 square foot home. They downsized from a 700-square-foot apartment, but see the loss of square footage as worth the cost. “If you live by yourself, you might not be able to afford the brick plaza, the teahouse, the gardens,” Devine told The Oregonian.

The detached garage was converted into a separate residence. Photo credit Eli Spevak, used with permission.

Back deck from one Sabin Green home shows the view into the shared courtyard. Photo credit Steve Hambuchen, used with permission.

Ruth’s Garden Cottages—covered by Sightline here—takes tiny home communities to another level. On a 50- by 100-foot lot in Northeast Portland that housed one small dwelling, Orange Splot added two tiny cottages, each less than 200 square feet in size. The miniature structures have room for a sleeping loft, a bathroom, and a well-proportioned front porch. The cottages make use of the kitchen in the main home. A shared garden takes up the front 50 feet of the lot.

The view of Ruth’s Cottages from the street. Photo credit Mike O'Brien, used with permission.

The main house contains a full kitchen that all Ruth’s Cottages residents can use, but the cottages also have modest kitchen facilities for quick snacks. Photo credit Mike O'Brien, used with permission.

Front porches and a common courtyard provide outdoor living “rooms.” Photo credit Mike O'Brien, used with permission.

The recession and housing crisis, combined with changing demographics, have led many of us to reevaluate what we want in a home. More and more folks are looking for homes within walking distance of jobs, stores, and transit—and have proven willing to trade square footage for a vibrant neighborhood. At the same time, millennials increasingly look for alternatives to the car; baby boomers have reached the age where they don’t need a big home in the ‘burbs; and more and more families are choosing to live in multi-generational households.

Tiny houses are a great solution for all these needs. So whether you are a recent graduate wanting to be free from high rent, or a family looking to live without a mortgage, or you want toturn your detached garage into a mother-in-law suite, a small home might be for you. As Marcus Barksdale, who built his own small home in Asheville, North Carolina, said in this interview: “It would be really neat if more people sought to have smaller spaces, because it would free them up for a larger life.”